When I moved to Jamaica in July, my heart was pretty hard. It felt like a heavy rock. An anchor weighing me down. It was as if this tiny organ had taken over my entire body. A dull ache radiated from its core. It’s a wonder at all that it worked.
Since then, I have been solely responsible for getting my heart back to soft. To a feeling of weightlessness. I’ve been on a rigorous training regime – no surrender. Lots of sacrifice, questions and tears. A re-discovery of how the heart functions with light and love instead of hurt.
Sitting here in a bustling coffee shop in sunny November, pretty music filling my ears, I can say with some certainty that I’m making progress. How, you ask?
7. Exercising: The physical sensation of movement has released the hardening. My legs feel strong and this strength has made its way upward, through the bloodstream and into my heart. Heaviness has taken flight. All being well, I will run my fifth half marathon in just under two weeks. This will be my reward for all the hard work.
6. Being of good cheer: Every day, I wake up and choose to be in a good mood. I smile, strike up generous conversations with strangers, am polite and give off a positive vibe, no matter what the circumstances. Kindness passes through me like a wave and engulfs me on the way back. The softness you put out, you get in return.
5. Embracing friendship: Being in a new country has forced me to make new friends. These amazing souls have unknowingly taken and then carried away my heaviness. I have also been on a journey of reacquaintance. I’m finding myself unexpectedly leaning towards friends I’ve not been close to the last few years, and this reconnection is a welcome surprise. Meanwhile, I am reuniting with old friends simply by virtue of my obscure location on the planet. (Here I am with Curtis, a friend from London, who was visiting family in Jamaica last weekend. I haven’t seen him since 2008.)
4. Volunteering: Giving my time to the world has been incredibly rewarding and challenged me to rethink how society places value on work. Meaningful work doesn’t need to result in an increased savings account and in fact, goes way beyond that – it’s about touching and improving people’s lives. Leading a simple, small existence is not only good for a softening heart, it’s good for the planet. (If you are so inclined, you can contribute to my fundraising initiative for Cuso International on my volunteer website.)
3. Laughing: I find myself now laughing out loud daily at comments and moments that come my way, sharing them with my colleagues here. “Only in Jamaica!”, we say. The other day an old man on top of a junk-filled dump truck was so excited to see a white woman that he was yelling and waving at the top of his lungs as I passed by. The image still makes me laugh. Laughing is the only answer when things get stressful and it creates a feeling of freedom in my chest.
2. Moving forward: I have set goals and will keep moving towards them. Dreaming has kept me afloat and taken away some of the heaviness of the present moment. Dreams give me wings.
1. Getting lost: The feeling of getting lost is a lot like falling in love. I get butterflies some days. Discovering who I am thrown amongst the backdrop of completely new experiences…to only be found again. Getting lost out here was the best thing that could have happened to my heart.